#NigeriaAt58 : RULE OF LAW IN NIGERIA IS A DWARF

#NigeriaAt58 : RULE OF LAW IN NIGERIA IS A DWARF

NIGERIA often prides itself as “the giant of Africa”. If you are referring to population and (to a smaller extent, land mass, and general influence on the continent) this is a fairly justifiable claim. Nigeria, in terms of population, is by far the largest country in Africa.

The July 2015 estimates of the index of populations of African countries put Nigeria at 181,563,000, distantly followed by Ethiopia with 103,764,000 and Egypt, 89,125,000. South Africa, which we claim to rub shoulders with as a co-continental giant has a population of 54,957,000. The question before us is: what is the situation of the Rule of Law in Nigeria after 58 years of independence? The only way to measure it is by comparing the situation in Nigeria to other countries in Africa and the world at large, using universally-validated metrics. The most prominent internationally-acclaimed authority on the Rule of Law index in the world is the World Justice Project, WJP, a Washington DC-based independent multidisciplinary organisation founded by William Neukon in 2006 as a presidential initiative of the American Bar Association, ABA.

In its latest survey of 113 countries of the world conducted between 2017 and 2018, the WJP ranked Nigeria 97th, while the top three performers were (1) Denmark, (2) Norway and (3) Finland. While countries of Western Europe and North American occupied the top ten, sub-Saharan Africa, as usual, brought the rear. The shocking fact is that even in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria scored 13th out of the 18 countries! Ghana came first, followed by South Africa and Botswana. Nigeria was only better than Madagascar, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Cameroun. Instructively too, the indices showed that Nigeria was among the countries in which the situation of Rule of Law had declined across the indices from the 2015-2016 survey. Survey parameters The WJP broke the Rule of Law into subheads such as: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice and Criminal Justice.

Rule of law and security (1) By Femi Falana Constraints on government powers: This measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by law. Out of Nigeria’s 58 years of independence, the military ruled for 29 years. During that time, the military suspended parts of the Constitution and ruled by decrees, and most of them were with ouster and retroactive clauses. It was essentially “rule of the gun”, rather than rule of law. But in the past 20 years of our nascent democracy, the Constitution was fully restored. Rule of the gun rather than rule of law But many Presidents (especially those with military backgrounds such as Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari) and Governors have tended to ignore court orders or pick and choose what to comply with. Only recently, President Buhari insisted that he would continue to uphold “the security” of the nation above the rule of law. Absence of corruption: This category refers to the prevalence of bribery, improper influence of government officials and processes by private or public interests, and misappropriation of funds and other resources.

Nigeria is renowned as one of the countries that are neck-deep in these and other forms of corruption. Nigeria ranks 148th out of the 180 countries surveyed in the world by the Transparency International, TI, in its Corruption Perception Index, CPI, in 2007 (the latest survey). The country was 136th in 2016, so the trend is worsening under a regime that has anti-corruption as a priority. Open government: This is the extent to which government shares information and empowers people with tools to hold government accountable and participate in their own governance. Facts on the ground on this are abysmal. The colonial and military traditions of Official Secrecy have largely continued. However, the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan on May 28, 2011 mandates government to make “public records and information more readily available, provide for public access to public records and information…protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorisation and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes”. Since the passage of this law, very little has improved in open governance and access to public information. Most Freedom of Information, FOI, requests meet brick walls in government offices. In fact, Media Rights Agenda, MRA, a FOI advocacy group, has published dozens of federal public institutions in its Hall of Shame for refusing to obey the FOI law. Legal processes Legal processes which the law prescribe to enforce the FOI law make very slow and frustrating progress in the courts.

Open governance remains a mirage in Nigeria. Fundamental human rights: Human rights abuses were very rampant during the military era. Journalists, activists and lawyers were routinely jailed and brutalized, some disappeared or were killed. But the Nigerian Constitution (1999) guarantees the Fundamental Human Rights of citizens in broad terms in line with international conventions. In fact, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, was set up in 1995 but the law was amended in 2010 to guarantee the implementation of the human rights of Nigerians. Human rights have improved under our democracy but the government routinely feels entitled to deprive citizens of their rights in defiance of court orders. The situation has worsened under President Buhari’s regime, with the Sambo Dasuki, Joshua Abiri and Ibrahim El Zakzaky cases very prominent, among others. Order and security: This covers safety of lives and property, and the ability of government to guarantee them. Nigeria is renowned as a country wracked by Boko Haram Islamist terrorists which in the past ten years has killed over 20,000 people and displaced more than four million from their communities in the North East.

In the past three years, the Fulani herdsmen militias, which have been killing and seizing indigenous peoples’ lands especially in the central belt of the country are rated as the fourth most murderous terrorist group in the world. Added to that is the upsurge of armed bandits in the North West. Also, there is periodic militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The Nigerian Army is fully deployed as if the country is at war. Life is cheap in Nigeria. Kidnaps for ransom has gone out of control throughout the country. Police brutality is high, as evidenced in the poor image of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. Law and order is very poor in Nigeria, and the citizenry feels very unsafe. Regulatory enforcement:

The atmosphere for regulatory enforcement is very weak in Nigeria. Government agencies are generally incompetent, indolent and corrupt. That is why despite the Customs, Nigeria is a dumping ground for imported goods, including those that can easily be made in Nigeria. Nigerian borders are also porous and foreigners flood the country almost at will. The prevalence of substandard goods and products in the markets bespeak of the low level of regulatory enforcement. That was why when the late Prof. Dora Akunyili became the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, she made headline news as the Agency set the pace in regulatory enforcement. Civil and criminal justice: These reflect the ability of the legal system to bring lawbreakers and criminals to justice. People who are highly connected to the ruling class find it easy to escape justice in Nigeria.

Besides, too many changes in government policies make the system weak and unreliable for the implementation of agreements. Those who embezzle public funds rarely go prison, though the Federal Government has often made tepid efforts to recover stolen public funds. The consistency in the poor run of Nigeria in most global indexes show that the system is not working. After 58 years of independence, Nigeria falls among failing or even failed countries where the Rule of Law cannot stand. This is why the call for Restructuring has continued to gather currency. However, it will take a major paradigm shift in the ruling circles before the necessary processes to bring about the needed change can be agreed.

Ochereome Nnanna / Vanguard

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 1747 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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